Rolling on the river with beats and blues
I have to start this week’s music column out with the fact that there is indeed, in the words of the old medicine show circuit, a “Free Show Tonight.”
It is the 9th annual Diamond Teeth Mary Blues Fest. Now, the festival is boiled down into one night of music as part of Heritage Station’s Party on the Patio.
Music fires up at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, with the well-traveled Huntington Blues Society, followed by Creek Don’t Rise and Miss Freddeye, a national award-winning blues singer out of Pittsburgh, who are going to be also playing together Saturday night, Aug. 18, Ironton’s Rally on the River.
It is fitting fashion the DTM fest reels in another mighty fine female singer to pay tribute to one of the hardest working women to ever sing the blues — Diamond Teeth Mary whose ashes were scattered on the railroad tracks at Heritage Station in August 2000.
It is from those tracks the Huntington-born, Logan native, who was Bessie Smith’s half-sister, left on the train as a tween to go make her living on the medicine show circuit. During World War II, she shared the stage with Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Ray Charles and Sarah Vaughan as they toured with the USO in New Guinea.
After years married to a Florida preacher and singing solely in church, she was rediscovered by a musicologist and took back to the road in her 80s, washing those blues anew with gospel and baptizing folks in her spirited voice from the Reagan White House to the Chicago Blues Festival, Carnegie Hall and fests all over Europe.
If you think you are a late blooming, know that although she had spent literally 80-plus years as a performing artist,
Diamond Teeth Mary didn’t record her first CDs until her 90s, “If I Can’t Sell It, I’m Gonna Sit on It” in March 1993 and “Walking Mary’s Blues” the following year with such standards as “Amazing Grace” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Both were recorded in Huntington at Denny Chandler’s recording studio with her long-time friends in St. Petersburg, Fla., Liz Pennock and Dr. Blues.
Although we got just one night to do it, let’s make sure we never forget and celebrate the wild, rollercoaster life of Diamond Teeth Mary, who died April 4,2000. Only two weeks after her final gig. As the late, great, fellow West Virginia Music Hall of Famer Nat Reese told me of Mary when he played her funeral and memorial fest back in 2000: “There was only one Mary — and that was her.”
A whole lot of riverside picking
It’s that festival time of year, and so I was checking out some of the acts rolling into the regional festivals. If you’re a bluegrass fan, it’s probably worth the drive up to Parkersburg Sunday, Aug. 18, to catch the 17th annual Johnny Staats Bluegrass Festival that is rolled into the Parkersburg Homecoming fest.
From 1 until 5 p.m., they’ve got Robin and Dan Kessinger, Bobby Taylor and Andrew Dunlap along with Johnny Staats and the Delivery Boys lined up and ready for an all out picking assault on the strings.
If you like that kind of old-time string burning, you can save the gas as Robin Kessinger. He’s playing next weekend at the Fly In Festival here at the Robert C. Newlon Airpark, just north of Huntington, and he will also be hosting his Robin Kessinger State Flatpick guitar contest and workshops at the festival. The contest will run 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17. Go online at www.facebook.com/Flyln Festival/for more info about the fest running Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24-25.
Gates open on Thursday, Aug. 23, with a potluck dinner, jams and camping at the festival, hosted by The Bing Brothers and Jake Krack.
Enjoy two days of music, camping, and activities. Bands include: The Modock Rounders, Bobby Maynard and Breakdown, String Therap, Kenny and Amanda Smith, Don Rigsby, Schultz Creek, Clay Hess Band, The Clay Hess Band, Danny Paisley and Southern Grass, The Reve-nant Souls with Kelly Ray & Julie Davis, Creek Don’t Rise, Black Mountain Bluegrass Boys, Snakewinder featuring Dave Bing, Danny Arthur, & Scott Rucker and many more. Emcees are Kirk Judd, Pete Kosky, and The “Bo Man” Bo McCarty.
Go online at www.facebook.com/FlylnFestival/for more info.
They shall be released — Now that is Fuego
In new video releases, there’s been some pretty killer locally-made videos rolling out lately.
Last week, Huntington hip hop artist, Shelem, added to the stack, premiering a flowing and fun video for “Fuego,” the first single off of his upcoming CD, “The Jaunts.” The video has him spitting rhymes as bobblehead at The Press Club, and then bouncing from the city to beach into the woods. You can see Shelem in action tonight at 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, as he’s at the Boulevard Tavern, 806 Kanawha Blvd E, Charleston, with The Heavy Hitters and pop singer songwriter Luke Perry.
Shelem is also planning an album listening party for “The Jaunts/′ at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at Little India Restaurant of WV, 1604 Washington St. E., Charleston.
Here in Huntington, he’s on the bill Sept. 7 at the V Club with a night of hip hop with Dinosaur Burps, Sin Revel and DJ Charlie Brown Superstar. And fresh news in is that he’s been added to the Huntington Music and Arts Festival After-Party to be hosted at the V Club, 7416th Ave., Huntington, Saturday, Sept. 1 with an eclectic bill featuring Buffalo Wabs from Cincy, Charlie Brown Superstar and Scroungehound. Go online at www.facebook.com/YaBoy-Shelem/?ref=br_rs to find out more about Shelem.
Two paws up for this MAC show
Head down the Country Music Highway on Saturday, Aug. 17, to the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg where the Animal Alliance of East Kentucky is presenting the inaugural Woofstock. This event is to help raise money for a non-profit providing education to the public regarding the humane treatment of animals and low cost spay and neuter services to Floyd, Johnson, Magoffin, and Martin Counties.
The benefit concert will feature some heavyweights of the local and regional music scene. Headliners Bek & The Starlight Revue will share the bill with Nicholas Jamerson, Luna & The Mountain Jets, Sean Whiting, Jen Tackett, Josh Nolan, and Chelsea Nolan. It is also rumored there might be a Laid Back Country Picker sighting at some point in the evening as well.
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by visiting www.macarts.com, by calling 1 (888) MAC-ARTS, or by visiting the MAC Box Office.
Red Wanting Blue back in the Buckeye State
One of the hardest working Buckeye State bands, Red Wanting Blue, are rolling into a great venue for an even greater gig as Peoples Bank Theatre in historic Marietta, Ohio, is playing host to a taping of Mountain Stage.
Good news for fans of Red Wanting Blue, who’ve played Pullman Square Summer Concert Series in 2013, headlined HMAF in 2014, is that they are packing what could be their best album yet.
Produced by well-known singer songwriter, Will Hoge (who’s played Mountain Stage himself a few times), the April released “The Wanting,” is packed with 11 songs carrying the joy and the weight of their long, strange trip as a road band.
“In every odyssey, there comes a time when you must accept that what you are pursuing is no longer a rational decision,” lead singer Scott Terry writes in the liner notes of Red Wanting Blue’s new album, The Wanting.′ “It’s a choice that does not feel like a choice. It is a hunger.”
Showtime is 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19, for the Mountain Stage taping that also features Parkersburg native and Mountain Stage veteran Todd Burge, Gurf Morlix, Natalie Prass and Jill Sobule.
Tickets are $20 to $34. Go online at www.mountain stage.org/to find out more about this show and other Mountain Stage news, and go online at red wanting blue.com to find out more about that band.
Dave Lavender writes about music for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Facebook and Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.